Report: Pistons get face time with mystery man Exum

Dante Exum could be a consideration for the Pistons in the draft.
Sam Forencich (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

CHICAGO – Fair to guess that not one of the 61 players scheduled to participate in this week’s NBA draft combine will be requested more for team interviews than Dante Exum.

The Pistons can put a check mark by that box before the schedule swings into high gear with individual drills and testing today and Friday. According to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, Exum met with three teams Wednesday night – the Pistons, Philadelphia and Phoenix.

Except for a dazzling week in Portland at the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit last spring, Exum is an international man of mystery. An Australian whose American-born father Cecil played at North Carolina and was a ninth-round pick in 1984, Exum’s Hoop Summit display was so impressive that it altered his life’s course.

Originally expected to play at least a year of American college basketball, Exum instead graduated from his high school in the fall of 2013 and shortly thereafter hired an agent – Rob Pelinka, better known as the agent for Kobe Bryant and the Pistons’ own Andre Drummond – with the intention of declaring for the 2014 draft.

So tape of the 2013 Hoop Summit is going to get more hits than all the cat videos in YouTube’s catalog combined over the next six weeks by teams picking in the lottery. If there’s a consensus No. 4 player at this point behind the big three of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, it might well be Exum despite the mystery that surrounds him.

At 6-foot-6, Exum projects to point guard, where the common comparison heard is to ex-NBA great Penny Hardaway. For a Pistons team looking to add size, athleticism and defense along the perimeter, Exum’s combination of skill and length would seem to fit their needs.

And what teams get out of Exum at this week’s combine might be their best chance to look under the hood. Pelinka often limits his clients’ draft workouts to the bare minimum. The Pistons got a brief look at Drummond 48 hours before the 2012 draft when Pelinka finally became convinced he might slip to them with the No. 9 pick. He famously shut down Dion Waiters two years ago and saw it pay off when Cleveland stunned many by picking him at No. 4.

If the Pistons don’t pull a top-three pick at next week’s draft lottery and keep their pick at No. 8 – they lose it altogether if any team jumps them into the top three, forced in that case to ship it to Charlotte – it’s not very likely they would get Exum to Auburn Hills for a predraft visit or workout. So getting an interview request for Exum granted by the NBA, which controls the schedule at the combine, will provide a useful glimpse of the Australian star in the event that he falls to them, as Drummond did two years ago.

  • One other interesting player here is UCLA freshman Zach LaVine. He came off the bench and averaged less than 10 points per game, but if you’re looking for this year’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – a player not really considered a top-10 pick entering the lottery who opens eyes and moves up as the draft process plays out – this could be the guy.

    He’s a long way from polished, but for high-end athleticism and explosive potential he might be in a class of two that also includes Wiggins, who will likely battle Parker to be the No. 1 pick. At 6-foot-5, scouts aren’t sure where LaVine will play, but he could develop into a Russell Westbrook-type point guard.

  • There’s an unusually large contingent of players with ties to Michigan this year, including three Michigan Wolverines and two Michigan State Spartans. Michigan’s Nik Stauskas and Michigan State’s Gary Harris figure to get serious looks by the Pistons if they stay at No. 8, while Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary would be under strong consideration, it would seem, should they fall to the top of the second round where the Pistons hold the No. 38 pick.

    Michigan State’s Adrean Payne, who revealed this week that he unknowingly played with mononucleosis since December of his senior season, should be taken between Pistons picks. He was invited to the combine but won’t participate due to his illness.

    Michigan State’s Keith Appling was not invited to the combine, nor was Oakland University’s Travis Bader, the NCAA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers. Bader helped himself with an impressive Portsmouth Invitational showing last month, though, and some feel he could go in the top half of the second round.

  • Check my Twitter account throughout the day today and Friday as I’ll have updates from Chicago.